Marty Klein

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Marty Klein
Marty Klein 2017.jpg
Marty Klein 2017
Known forsex education
policy analyst
Scientific career
FieldsFamily & Marriage Therapist
Certified Sex Therapist
WebsiteMarty Klein's Sexual Intelligence Blog and website

Marty Ralph Klein (born 1950) is an American sex therapist, author, educator and public policy analyst. Klein has spent his career supporting the healthy sexual expression of men, women and couples in a wide range of ways. He is critical of censorship, the concepts of sex addiction and porn addiction, as well as the anti-pornography movement. He believes that public policy relating to sexuality should be driven by scientific data rather than emotion, "tradition" or popular but untrue myths. He has been a participant in various state, federal and international court cases dealing with the First Amendment, obscenity, censorship and "harmful to minors" laws.

Early life[edit]

Klein grew up in Brooklyn, New York. While still in elementary school he began to play the recorder and to collect stamps, interests he has continued throughout his life. Collecting stamps led to a lifelong interest in geography and history. He later wrote on these topics frequently when he began to lecture and travel internationally.[1]

After graduating from Stuyvesant High School in 1967 he attended Stony Brook University. There he developed a passion for sociology and went on to attend PhD programs in sociology at Indiana University and the University of California.[2]


Klein was trained in the doctoral programs of two different branches of sociology: the first was survey research, the use of statistical analysis to gather data about human behavior in order to understand, correlate and predict it; the second was ethnomethodology, which is the study of how people create meaning as a prelude to creating orderly social interactions and predictable social institutions.[3]

While at the University of California, Klein worked at the local weekly newspaper the Santa Barbara News & Review, his first job was a writer. In 1976 the Los Angeles Times published his op-ed piece on contraceptive advertising; together these two outlets began his career as a professional writer.

First as a volunteer and then as a staff member, Klein worked for the Santa Barbara branch of Planned Parenthood (1976-1980). While there he became intrigued with the recurring experience of women returning for pregnancy tests multiple times despite being prescribed or given various types of contraception. These women's explanations surprised him: they didn't want to use birth control because they were afraid their partner would think they were a slut, or that they had actually planned to have sex with a stranger they'd just met at a bar.[3]

Planned Parenthood then asked him to run a group for the male partners of women coming to the birth control clinic. He also received a grant from the state Office of Family Planning relating to male sexuality. His interest already piqued by his experiences at the clinic, he began his career in human sexuality.[3]

America needs a model of sexual health that is sex-positive.[4]


Views on sexuality in the media[edit]

Klein has been outspoken about the way sexuality is discussed in media outlets. For example, a 2005 New York Times article on the phenomenon of self-help books about sexual positions, sex fantasies and increasingly edgy materials stated that the genre is big business, aimed at women and promoting the idea that "It is a woman's role to ensure that the couple's sex life remains satisfying." Klein disagrees that the promises that these books make about improving sex with oral, anal and fetishistic techniques and information are not what most couples really need to make them happy. "A book called 'How to Get Your Wife to Hug You a Little Bit More' or 'How to Get Your Husband to Slow Down and Caress Your Hair and Love Doing It,' now those are books that would change people's lives," says Klein.[5] Communication is the key to satisfying relationships; things like new positions or removing pornography from a home without your partner's consent is generally not helpful.[6] Klein told the Commonwealth Club that what most adults want out of sex is a combination of "pleasure and closeness," and he encourages people to pay more attention to these, rather than to performance anxiety or how they look.[7]

Klein has criticized the mass media for talking about sexuality in what he claims is an exploitative manner. He calls this the "Oprah-ization" factor, where talk shows like Oprah and Dr. Phil will, for example, put teen prostitutes on stage and talk about how awful it is. What they are really doing, according to Klein, is showing teen girls in skimpy clothing talking about sex, which results in voyeuristic viewers. "If the American media really thought these stories were so terrible it wouldn't give them so much air time ... The key message in American culture is that sex is dangerous. But sex isn't dangerous, bad sexual decision making is dangerous."[8] In an interview with Chip August for Personal Life Media Klein stated, "I think Oprah has single-handedly launched the victim industry in this country," adding that society is now infantilizing women by saying that they are unable to make decisions for themselves, that they are tricked into drinking at parties, that they can't control whether they get drunk or create circumstances of vulnerability. "It's demeaning to people to say that even though you're an adult, we're not going to hold you accountable for your own decision-making," he says.[3][9]

Views on pornography[edit]

Klein has criticized as unproven the theory of "secondary effects", which posits that people involved with various forms of commercial sexual expression (such as escorts, strip clubs or pornography) will inevitably get involved with other, non-sexual illegal activity such as burglary, vandalism, or assault. He states that there is no evidence for this, but the idea appeals intuitively to many people. Thus instead of looking at the actual causal factors of crime, they seek to ban pornography, strip clubs and other outlets to reduce it.[10] On 20/20 Klein told host John Stossel that 150 years ago most people got married as soon as they reached puberty, which was about 14 or 15 years old. Now most Americans reach puberty around ages 10–12 but they delay marriage into their late 20s. "Telling people to not have sex is like telling a depressed person to have a nice day and expecting that to lift their depression."[11]

In December 2016, Klein was a return guest on The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe talking about his book His Porn, Her Pain: Confronting America's Porn Panic with Honest Talk about Sex. He explained that he wrote this book in response to Broadband internet making porn more available - and the accompanying increase in women complaining about their men viewing porn, as well as to help improve sexual literacy of both adults and minors. Host Steven Novella asked Klein if anti-pornography groups are trying to justify their opposition by citing health concerns or were just confused about the science. Klein responded that both are true. "The junk science is there for anyone who wants to use it," he said, noting that the common claims that pornography leads to various social problems lack evidence to support them, as rates of sexual violence, divorce, teen pregnancy and child molestation have all gone down since Broadband pornography became common. He observed that couples that don't have sex anymore are quicker to fight about pornography rather than have a meaningful conversation about problems in their sexual relationships. Cara Santa Maria asked if porn leads to unrealistic expectations by men. "Absolutely yes!" Klein answered. "Some people think porn is a documentary, showing real people in real situations... porn is usually unusual bodies, doing unusual things in unusual circumstances." "Pornography leaves out so much that we value in sex. Kissing, hugging ... whispering... because if you watch people hug, after about 2 seconds it gets real boring." In addition, he explained that consumer products based on fantasy are mostly about what people want to see, not necessarily what they want to do or experience, as both men and woman fantasize about things they would not do even if given the chance.[12]

Views on children and sexuality[edit]

In a 2012 interview with Your Tango, Klein stated that in America, children are raised to have negative feelings about sex and their sexuality. In Europe most beaches are clothing optional, yet in America nudity on beaches is a crime. "When children in the United States grow up learning that their sexuality is bad, when every institution that children have contact with reminds them that their sexuality is bad or dirty or shameful or dangerous — when those kids grow up to be adults, they carry those lessons with them. And one of the things those kids decide when they are adults is that 'if there's something wrong with my sexuality, there must be something wrong with everyone else's sexuality. And, therefore, it's not only my sexuality that I need to repress, it's other people's sexuality that I need to be concerned about, too." This is, Klein says, one of the roots of censorship in America. Further, he has been critical of laws which make it risky for parents to take photos of their children in the bathtub, or for teenagers to take sexual photos of themselves for their own private use. In addition, he has spoken out against the way he sees teens being treated as a sexually repressed minority, such as the criminalization and punishment of teen "sexting," and the deliberate withholding of sexual information and sexual health products from them.[13]

In a 2015 New York Times interview, Klein was asked how best to talk to children about sex. He responded that it depends on the child, since a younger child will probably not notice the conversation, and older children will need additional information and it is best for parents to respond honestly in a way that reflects their values. A teenager will need to understand what is real and what is fictional entertainment. In all cases, Klein said, it is important to listen, remain calm and make sure the child knows they are not a bad person for having sex questions and that they can ask the parent anything. '"There’s a technical word for the conversations that adults have with their kids when the parents are uncomfortable'" said Klein '"parenting.'"[14]

Klein has also noted that children are learning about sex despite "anti-sex crusaders" and other societal forces trying to keep it from them: "The truth is children think about sex whether we want them to or not. Children don't need our help to think about sex ...There are groups of people out there who are devoted to scaring the heck out of Americans about sexuality ...It makes some people feel good because they say, 'Aha, there's the enemy and if only we could do something about that, everything would be better.' "[15] It's a parenting issue, Klein told NPR, when children are viewing something that is made for adults. Parents need to educate their children and increase their sexual literacy, so that they understand that what they are seeing on the Internet is fantasy.[16][17]

The two best strategies for improving sex are better communication and more self-acceptance. ...Self-acceptance: your body is the way it is; you’re not going to lose 10 pounds this weekend. ... One breast is bigger than the other, one nipple has a few stray hairs, your penis is exactly the size it is. ...Vanilla sex isn’t what makes people bored. Focussing on distracting stuff does. Feeling disconnected does. Having sex when you’re resentful or too tired does. ...If you and your partner(s) enjoy some kink, or a different time/place/activity every time you have sex, by all means have a good time. Nothing wrong with that if it works for you. But for most people, wilder isn’t necessarily better. In fact, wilder actually pulls some people away from the connection and focus that can make sex enjoyable. For better sex, don’t diss vanilla—slow down and get to know it better.[18]

NECSS 2015

"Sex addiction"[edit]

When the expression "sex addiction" was coined in the mid-1980s by Patrick Carnes, Klein began to lecture and write against this idea. Klein believed then - and continues to believe - that the concept of "sex addiction" is primarily a set of moralistic judgements dressed up as clinical theory. He has written that the concept is a simplistic explanation of poor sexual decision-making that demonizes sexuality. He says it ignores the roles of culture, religion and the psychological means of sex for individuals while portraying sexual desires as dangerous, often unhealthy and in need of strict control channeled into the one proper form of sexual expression. Klein has reservations that sex-addiction exists and believes that an addiction movement whose agenda is based on false assumptions is harmful to patients and to society, namely: that sexual desires are dangerous, controlling, and not healthy, and that there is only one way to express sexuality.

It is unknown, according to Klein, if the sex addiction movement realized that its ideas would become politically exploited. Regardless of their intentions, this is what activists, government and the media have done in order to discredit the profession of sexology. Issues such as culture, religion, age and disorders must be taken into account. He states that society needs to come up with "sex-positive" models of "sexual health". These models should reflect good education for children as well as for adults, while being sensitive across different cultures.[4] Klein's concerns with the concept of sexual addiction are that it appears to lend scientific credibility to it and implies that "sex is dangerous."[19][20] Twelve-step programs for sex addiction are of limited value because they are typically self-referred for a problem that any lay person can diagnose. There is no serious evaluation, just "Hello Joe, welcome to the group". Joe may suffer from other problems that will not be helped by a twelve-step program, and may in fact be made worse.[8] Klein told NPR that the idea that going to strip clubs or "watching porn movies can actually be addictive in the same way that heroin is addictive is just silly."[16][21][22][23]

There is no proof, no verified scientific data that people who look at pornography are more likely to commit violent or sexually deviant acts than anybody else... there is actually evidence to the reverse. Anti porn crusaders like to use the phrase "violent porn" as if it is one word. The good news is that most pornography is not violent. - Klein on Penn & Teller: Bullshit![24]

Court cases[edit]

Michigan passed a law in 1999 criminalizing the distribution of "sexually explicit" material on the Internet fearing it could fall into the hands of minors. Plaintiffs, which included Marty Klein, challenged the law arguing that it violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and it was ruled unconstitutional in June 2001.[25]

In April 2000 Arizona Governor Jane Hull signed law H.B. 2428 which added the Internet to the "harmful to minors" statute. Plaintiffs including Klein sought to have the Internet removed, claiming the law was far too broad contrary to the First Amendment. After reaching the 9th Circuit in June 2002, the Court struck down the law as unconstitutional in American Civil Liberties Union v. Goddard.[26] [27]

In early 2010 an addition was proposed to Massachusetts Senate Bill 997 adding "electronic media" to traditional media in its "harmful to minors" law. This would have criminalized any material posted on the Internet that might be considered harmful if viewed by a minor. The plaintiffs argued that this could "potentially ban constitutionally protected speech about art, literature, sexual health and other topics." The case was heard in October 2010, and in April 2011 the Bill was signed into law, but with the stipulation that it could only be enforced if the "harmful material" was knowingly distributed to a minor. Marty Klein was the only individual among the various institutional plaintiffs.[28]

According to lead attorney Michael Bamberger in 2010, the "harmful to minors" law is too broad and will harm adults that have a constitutional right to content on the Internet, '"(T)he injunction was necessary to ensure that all Internet communications were not reduced to the level of what is appropriate for children."'[29] Plaintiffs were concerned that fines of up to $10,000 and five years in prison would have a chilling effect on booksellers as websites have no way to determine the age of an Internet user, and it is not possible to block only users located in Massachusetts. Thus the law would threaten Internet users nationwide and even worldwide.[30]

Klein has been an expert witness, consultant, or invited plaintiff in many state, federal, and international censorship, internet, and obscenity cases.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Klein is an extensive traveler and maintains a travel blog for his various trips, including India (2007), Azerbaijan (2009), Viet Nam (2010), Ukraine (2010), China (2011), Brazil (2011), Poland (2012), Myanmar (2013), Italy (2014), Hong Kong (2015), Japan (2015) and Greece (2016). All the photos on his blog are his own.[31]


Klein has been honored by the following professional associations:

  • American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors & Therapists: 2007 Sexuality Book of the Year[32]
  • California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists Literary Achievement
  • Honorary Memberships : Croatian Society for Medical Hypnosis and the Slovenian Society for Hypnotherapy

Select bibliography[edit]


Klein has authored seven books on sexuality. His book America's War on Sex with a foreword by ACLU President Nadine Strosse was honored as 2006's Best Sexuality Book by AASECT.[33] It documents how the issue of sexual regulation is being used by the Religious Right to undermine secular democracy. Klein details what he describes as a well-coordinated, deeply funded war on sexuality which is being fought on many fronts.[10] Klein explores what he sees as the U.S.'s deep-seated anxiety about sexuality and the lengths to which the U.S. government is willing to go to keep its citizens sexually repressed. Klein challenges American society's (and psychotherapy's) assumptions about sexuality; he is particularly critical of what he calls the "Sexual Disaster Industry" and the "Oprah-ization" of psychotherapy and medicine.[34]

  • Your Sexual Secrets: When to Keep Them, When & How to Tell. Dutton. 1988. ISBN 978-0525247166.
  • Ask Me ... Anything: Dr. Klein Answers the Sex Questions You'd Love to Ask. Simon & Schuster/Fireside. 1996. ISBN 978-0970452634.
  • Klein, Marty; Robbins, Riki (1999). Let Me Count the Ways: Discovering Great Sex Without Intercourse. Tarcher. ISBN 978-0874779561.
  • Beyond Orgasm: Dare to Be Honest about the Sex You Really Want. Ten Speed Press. 2002. ISBN 978-1587611681.
  • America's War on Sex: The Continuing Attack on Law, Lust, and Liberty. Praeger. 2006. ISBN 978-1440801280.
  • Sexual Intelligence: What We Really Want from Sex - and How to Get It. HarperCollins. 2012. ISBN 978-0062098580.
  • His Porn, Her Pain: Confronting America's Porn Panic with Honest Talk about Sex. Praeger. 2016. ISBN 978-1440852213.

Book chapters[edit]

  • Klein, Marty (1992). "Sex Education". In Walker, Eugene C.; Robert, Michael C. (eds.). Handbook of Clinical Child Psychology (2nd ed.). Wiley-Interscience. ISBN 978-0471503613.
  • Klein, Marty (1997). "Disorders of Desire". In Charlton, Randolph S. (ed.). Treating Sexual Disorders. Jossey-Bass. pp. 201–236. ISBN 978-0787903114.
  • Klein, Marty (2006). "Pornography: What men see when they watch". In Lehman, Peter (ed.). Pornography : film and culture. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 9780813538716.
  • Klein, Marty (2015). "Pornography, the narrative of public health; Pornography use as a clinical issue". In Whelehan, Patricia; Bolin, Anne (eds.). International Encyclopedia of Human Sexuality (1st ed.). Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1405190060. (contributor)


  1. ^ a b "Marty's Travel Blog". Archived from the original on April 16, 2017. Retrieved April 16, 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  2. ^ "Sexual Intelligence". Sexual intelligence. Archived from the original on September 19, 2020. Retrieved November 7, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d August, Chip. "Episode 1: Dr. Marty Klein: "America's War on Sex: The Attack on Law, Lust, and Liberty"". Personal Life Media. Retrieved January 23, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Edwards, Mac (June 2003). "SIECUS report The Debate Sexual addiction and compulsion" (PDF). SIECUS. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 24, 2015. Retrieved October 25, 2020.
  5. ^ La Ferla, Ruth. "More Sex, Less 'Joy'". Fashion & Style. NY Times. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  6. ^ Sohn, Amy. "First Comes Sex Talk With These Renegades of Couples Therapy". Fashion & Style. New York Times. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  7. ^ "Sexual Intelligence: A New View of Sexual Function & Satisfaction". The Commonwealth Club of California. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  8. ^ a b "Dr. Marty Klein, Marriage Counselor, Sex Therapist". You Tube. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  9. ^ "War on Sex". Reason.TV. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  10. ^ a b Gorman, Melanie. "War On Sex? An Interview With Dr. Marty Klein". Expert Blog. Your Tango. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  11. ^ Stossel, John. "Age of Consent". 20/20. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  12. ^ "Podcast #596 - December 10th, 2016". The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe. Retrieved January 23, 2017.
  13. ^ Klein, Marty. ""Sexting" Can't—Repeat, Can't—Kill Anyone". Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  14. ^ O'Learly, Amy. "How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography Parents' Stories and Expert Advice". Home and Garden. New York Times. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  15. ^ Stossel, John. "Sex, Sex Everywhere". ABC News. Retrieved January 23, 2017.
  16. ^ a b "Dr. Marty Klein's NPR Response to Utah's "Porn Crisis"". NPR. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  17. ^ "Moral Panic at Sex Tech". Sex Tech. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  18. ^ Klein, Marty. "Vanilla Sex—Our Best Friend". Retrieved January 22, 2017.[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ Verghese, Abraham. "The Pathology of Sex". Annals of Addiction. The New Yorker. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  20. ^ Yeung, Bernice. "Sex and the Single Psychologist". News. SF Weekly. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  21. ^ Savage, Dan. "Dan Savage Podcast: Porn Addiction". Dan Savage Podcast. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  22. ^ "Marty Klein". Canadian TV Corp. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  23. ^ "Marty Klein". Canadian TV Corp. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  24. ^ Klein, Marty. "Episode 601 "War on Porn"". YouTube. Penn & Teller: Bullshit!. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  25. ^ "Cyberspace Communications, Inc. v. Engler". Press Releases. The Media Coalition. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  26. ^ "American Civil Liberties Union v. Goddard". Press Releases. The Media Coalition. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  27. ^ "Marty Klein". The Media Coalition. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  28. ^ "American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression v. Coakley". Press Releases. Media Coalition. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  29. ^ "Press Release: Federal District Court Grants Preliminary Injunction Against Online Censorship Law". Press Releases. The Media Coalition. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  30. ^ "Press Release: Local Booksellers, National Trade Associations, ACLU, and Others Sue to Block Internet Censorship Law". Press Releases. The Media Coalition. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  31. ^ Klein, Marty. "Marty's Travel Blog: History, Culture, & People". Marty's Travels. Wordpress. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  32. ^ "Book award". American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists. Retrieved November 5, 2020.
  33. ^ "Monday Reviews: America's War on Sex". CSPH. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  34. ^ Kernes, Mark (November 2006). "America's War On Sex". Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality. 9.

External links[edit]